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Monday, May 13th, 2013

Summer Interns – Hire Them Even If You Don’t Need Them

New CPAs Freed MaxickTraditionally, public accounting firms focused all their recruiting activities around the “fall season.” Students were fresh.. back on campus… and their professors had prepared them for the beauty contest of the very active fall season.

I talk to many firms that still operate this way. I also talk to many firms who are just finishing-up the “spring season.”  It involves just as much work and intensity from firm HR professionals, firm administrators and partners as the fall campaign.

If you are not hiring summer interns – wake-up. If you are not identifying and getting to know the students you will be talking to in the fall – wake-up. If you think that being visible on campus just in the fall is enough – wake-up.

Accounting majors at prominent universities don’t know much (if anything) about local and regional accounting firms. Read more about why and how four students were surprised to learn that they could have the resources and support they thought was only available at the national firms at a local/regional firm.

Just a few years ago (including at my former firm) we did not hire summer interns because we didn’t have anything for them to do. Now, you must find something for them to do to keep them in your hiring pipeline. Some of the best students need a summer job!

Find projects where they can help. Let them shadow the summer auditors – there is always some repetitive work they can help with on an audit. They can also shadow in the tax area – have your tax team become your tax teaching team in the summer by establishing mini seminars on tax research, state & local tax, etc.

Check-out these good ideas via HBR, Hiring an Intern? What to Do Before the Summer Starts.

Some advice:

  • Craft your sales pitch. Even if you think your firm’s value proposition is obvious, dig deeper. Think hard about what a twenty-something is going to get out of 8 to 10 weeks of working side by side with your experienced, knowledgeable people.
  • What will your intern walk away with? What skills and insights will he/she learn on the job that will shape their career path, strengthen their network or help them decide once and for all that accounting is the way to go long term (and that your firm is flexible, fun, cool and prestigious).

What do you say to interns when they arrive? Check-out my Intern Speech and modify it to fit your firm.

Picture: Picture of new CPAs at Freed Maxick CPAs Buffalo office at their celebration lunch last week. How active are you at posting to your Facebook page?

  • I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.
  • Carl Sagan

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

What Do Your Interns Think?

It’s mid-February. At your busy accounting firm, your interns have been working diligently for about 6 weeks now. How’s it going for them?

First of all, you have to ask them. If you are a firm leader (that means you are responsible for others…. managing partner, any partner, manager, firm administrator, HR director, etc.), I hope you are touching base with them almost every day. Use two simple questions: How’s it going? Anything you need from me?

Is it time to take them to lunch as a group? From my experience, taking the interns to lunch was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my role as a leader. I was always impressed how knowledgeable they were about world events and the business world, in general. They usually knew more about current business trends than CPA firm partners with many years experience.

I also found most of them to be very good conversationalists and great dining partners. Use the time to share some of the things firm management is planning for the rest of the year. Encourage them to ask you questions.

Another valuable thing you might learn….. in six weeks time they have all the partners (and managers) pegged. That means they can tell you each one’s idiosyncrasies and probably can do impressions of them that will make you smile…. well, they will make you laugh out loud.

Send that email today – inviting the interns to join you for lunch. And, splurge – take them to the City Club, Country Club – someplace nice. Make it special.


  • A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The Interns Will Be Arriving At Your CPA Firm Next Week

The title, above, might not apply to some firms but I certainly hope it applies to the vast majority.

My advice when it comes to interns is, if you can possibly use one – hire two. If you think you might need 3, hire six. Most of you know by now that hiring for the public accounting profession has evolved to hiring from your intern pool. The best and brightest almost always accept offers from the firm they interned with. The stiffest competition in hiring on campus is for the best intern candidates.

When the interns arrive, make them feel special. I often ask groups of managing partners how they felt on their first day working in public accounting. I get some very consistent answers such as: I felt dumb. I felt lost. I was clueless. I was scared.

Now that you are more experienced, keep in mind how all new hires in the CPA world feel. And remember, use positive talk. Sometimes, people in CPA firms tend to dwell on the negative. When you describe your firm and public accounting, in general, to new hires (and to anyone) don’t forget to brag it up!

In January, when new hires and interns arrive, it is a perfect time to talk about the wonderful opportunities in public accounting. As a firm leader, take the time to talk with each one privately about the wonderful world of public accounting. I suggest comparing public accounting to being a doctor – CPAs are highly trained physicians (specialists) treating patients – sometimes you are focused on preventive medicine and sometimes you are an emergency room doctor. Sometimes you even need to provide psychiatric help (like me in the picture, above).

Here’s an example of an intern speech for you to use, just insert the name of one of your all-stars.

“You know, Nate, the reality of the CPA profession and what makes it so important to you, is the fact that it is absolutely the BEST place to TRAIN for the business world. Public accounting teaches you how to think in ways that have never entered your brain before now. Being an auditor forces you to look past what is obvious. Taxes teaches you how to be cunning, creative and forces you to think proactively. You could say that working in the tax area is like planning the strategy for an important battle.

What’s more, public accounting is like the emergency room for all business owners. YOU are the DOCTOR and PATIENTS come to you when they have a painful problem. You strip them of their clothes (so to speak), see them for what they humanly are, do x-rays, CAT scans and all kinds of tests to be sure it is a thorough examination. You see into their personal life like no other person. Then you diagnose and treat them.

Also, Nate, if you keep your eyes, ears and mind open during your time with them, you will see how successful businesses are run and how true entrepreneurs think. You might also see how mistakes and poor judgment can take a business down. What a training ground!”

  • The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it's their fault.
  • Henry Kissinger

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009


It won’t be long until you are back on the college campus for the fall recruiting season. It’s going to involve some challenging decisions this year.

Back in January, I talked about a trend by the helicopter parents to place their college students into unpaid internships.

I am now reading, in today’s WSJ, that even experienced people who find themselves out of work are taking on unpaid internships just to keep current and add expertise where they have had no prior experience.

Maybe some great accountants will want a busy season, unpaid internship? Somehow, I think I am dreaming.

Read the article here.

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – – Mark Twain

Thursday, January 29th, 2009


Although I never observed it first-hand (I’m not quite THAT old), I bet many of the Mature Generation still at work in firms today, remembers the time of unpaid internships. Young people worked for free just to get the experience.

In the accounting profession we must now must now stage quite an extravaganza to win the best and brightest interns and pay them, what I think, is quite a hefty hourly rate.

The helicopter parents are at it again. Per yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: Some are paying for-profit companies to place their college students in internships that are mostly unpaid. Others are hiring marketing consultants to create direct-mail campaigns promoting their children’s workplace potential. Still other parents are buying internships outright in online charity auctions. Other tidbits from the article:

  • For profit internship companies have sprung up during the last few years.
  • They screen-out some applicants.
  • They help polish resumes and arrange interviews with employers that offer internships.
  • The internship company featured guarantees an internship placement or refunds the students’ fees ($5,00 to $9,500).
  • Parents are paying consultants to do direct mail campaigns behalf of their children.
  • Other parents are purchasing internships outright in charity auctions (an internship at a music production company sold for $12,000).

Read the entire article….

I don’t think we’ll see this in the CPA profession quite yet, but we are already seeing lots of behaviors from Millennial (Gen-Y) parents that we never expected, like accompanying their student to the job interview. Some firms already have special programs for parents of their potential new hires. Times They Are A-changin‘.…….

“Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” – – Socrates (470 BC-399 BC)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008


As you know, I am always looking for CPA firms and people in public accounting that make me say WOW.

Yesterday, after a fantastic day with Gainer, Donnelly & Desroches at their beautiful office in Houston (a firm who is determined to have an “alive and healthy” mentoring program for their team), I flew to Orange County to be with another awesome firm, Windes & McClaughry, where today we’ll talk about generational issues at their annual leadership planning retreat.

On the plane I was reading Inside Public Accounting (you should be subscribing to this one – it is a must-read for progressive CPA firm leaders…. email me if you want a copy of my 2008 recommended reading list), I read about Johnson Lambert & Co., a Raleigh NC based firm.

The firm, with MP Deborah Lambert, feels so strongly about the correlation between great networking, life-balance and the personal development track that the firm provides not only high-quality internship experiences throughout the year, but also personal golf lessons for its 30+ summer interns. The golf lessons are also offered to any staff member who is an intern mentor (sure made staff step-up).

Think about it – connections made and relationships built through golf are a key part of many CPAs success activities. Check out the JL&Co. website where there is a link to the entire article.

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” – – Arnold Palmer

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008


There are some very special people working in your firms right now. They are young, smart, ambitious, eager to please, socially adept and fun to be around. No, I am not talking about your partners. I mean interns. I LOVE interns.

It’s now February, how do they feel about your firm? Did they have a clear understanding, before they started, as to what they would learn and experience?

If you don’t have one, take the time to develop a written description of your firm’s intern program to distribute prior to hiring and arrival. Describe what they will learn in the tax area and the assurance area. It not only enlightens interns but turns into a checklist for your coaches to be sure that the interns get a wide variety of experiences.

To check on how it’s going…. take the intern group to lunch around Valentine’s Day to show them that you love them.

“Love: a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.” – – Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Grades Or Grit

I like to work with people who have grit.

To me that means:

  • They are not hesitant to say what’s on their mind.
  • They continually give honest feedback and encouragement to those around them.
  • They don’t “walk on egg shells” because some people they work with are very sensitive or very explosive.
  • They also continually and positively push people to do their best.

When you are hiring or when you are assessing your fleet of interns to identify future hires, it is not about their GPA. Experts tell us that when a young person is about 5 years into their career, all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.

I have observed that first-hand over my career. If you are a leader in your firm I bet you have observed it, too. So… work with that.

Leaders with grit create team of doers not talkers.

Here’s a book to use as a resource – The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard.

Being a Baby Boomer, when I hear the word “grit” I think of John Wayne. How about you?

  • In the real world, smarts isn't about looking for the next star student with a 4.0 or having an IQ that can boil water. Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance and resilience. Call it grit.
  • Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Identify Future Leaders Early – Part I

Gary Boomer, is that you with Rita?Gary Boomer’s recent article in Accounting Today “hits the nail on the head,” so to speak. As usual, Boomer and I are on the same wave-length. His insight into what accounting firms should be doing and not doing is always right on-target. The theme of his recent article is “leaders should be identified early in their careers….”

Current firm leaders often tend to wait way too long to identify future leaders. They may be thinking to themselves, “Young Ted is really sharp. He grasps things so quickly and he can talk to clients in an enlightened and mature manner.” 

The trouble is, firm leaders don’t communicate to young Ted that he has what it takes to be a major player in the game of public accounting, along with an earnings potential to match.

Meanwhile, young Ted is restless. He wants more responsibility, he wants to mentor the new hires and interns, he wants to be assigned to the firm’s premier clients, he wants to learn directly from the best performing partners and he would like the chance to accompany a partner to a client meeting or lunch.

If Ted’s expectations are not met, he will move on to find career fulfillment elsewhere. Your competitors will hire him in a heart beat!

My theory is that most experienced accountants can almost immediately assess the future potential of a young person entering the accounting profession. Yet, they wait and often suffer through failures with struggling employees for way too long and hesitate to invest very quickly in education and development of all-stars.

Read Boomer’s article and see what you think. Check back tomorrow and I’ll list Boomer’s 10 characteristics to look for in identifying future leaders.


  • None of us is as smart as all of us.
  • Ken Blanchard

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Millennials – Don’t Overreact

10352910_10152827659781535_751124781211827779_nI do talk about Millennials quite a bit. Especially, because accounting firms hire a lot of new college graduates as entry-level staffers.

Currently, the new college graduates are called Millennials because they were born from 1980 onward. That means many of them in your accounting firm are in their early 30s.

I think the biggest deal about Millennials inside accounting firms is that they are so much more savvy about technology and the social media world most of us live in these days.

I really like millennials and when I was working everyday inside a growing firm, the interns were special to me – honest, hardworking, intelligent. Wait! Doesn’t that describe almost every accountant and others who work inside CPA firms, no matter what their age? Yes, Millennials are regular people, too and we sometimes overreact in trying to figure them out.

One tidbit I read several years ago was from a Baby Boomer: Millennials want the same thing we wanted as we entered the workforce, they just have the guts to ask for it.

If your CPA firm is hiring (and every firm I talk to is hiring right now), read the article and watch this very informative (and short) video from Fast Company. 

If you are managing Millennials, my advice:  Chill-out, they are regular people, too. Talk to them like adults.

Additional note, my firm took-off on a progressive and ambitious growth path when the founder retired and a 32-year old was named managing partner.

Photo credit: Lumsden McCormick

  • Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.
  • Herbert Hoover